A lot can change in a month...
Not sure if I mentioned it, but as of this upcoming Monday, I will be my grade-level chair. I am excited, and I am scared as hell. My predecessor is Amazing, and yes, that is with a capital 'A'. I owe her my first year of teaching. Without her guidance and her blunt, but kind advice, who knows what kind of haphazard hack I would be? Her leadership has been crucial during this school year, as our team is not the same "dream team" that it was last year. Though from her perspective, she struggled with our new teammates, I didn't see her break a sweat over it. Yet, I have, and probably, will continue to.
While our team is no where near where it should be, my predecessor was working hard on getting it to be the best it could be. She was diplomatic and personable. Folks who know me personally, is "diplomatic" a word that could be used to describe me? No. "Personable" is not it either. The common adjectives for me when I get into work mode are: "brusque", "blunt", "neurotic"...you know words that describe "bossy", "know-it-alls", who are "controlling" and "Type A". I can't honestly reject any of these descriptors. I mean, just last night when I went to dinner with friends/co-workers, I was told there was word out in the hallways that I am a "duty Nazi". True. I've been a grade-A, stone-cold heifer about being present during lunch and doing what needs to be done.
Incompetency doesn't work for me or with me. Mediocrity is just plain unacceptable. Go hard, or go home. I have always operated with this in mind. If it is worth my time to do it, let's, you know, do it! If I'm at the school working my ass off for these students, and I care the world and more about them, then so should my fellow teachers. Otherwise, what the hell are you there for?
With that in mind, this is how I've been operating as a team member. If you are not carrying your weight to get the job done, then I will let you know it, in no uncertain terms. However, leaders can't do this. I can't just criticize and leave it alone. I have to lead by example and by a willingness to help. I've got the first part down. The second part, I'm still working on, especially with some of my teammates, which is why I'm scared as hell.
I'm not my predecessor. I'm not as graceful in speech, as diplomatic, or as personable. I'm a "weirdo" socially. I stutter frequently when I speak. I'm blunt. I'm a "Type A" when it comes to what I'm passionate about, which in this case, is working with these students. After much reflection last night, I've pinpointed my problem...
I'm afraid of failure. I feel like I'm back in my second semester of college, when I felt like I was staring down a barrel of a gun, when I was on the verge of failing Calculus II. I was an anxious, nasty mess that drove me to horrible depths physically and psychologically. In fact, I remember a doctor's appointment I went to during this time when my blood pressure was so high that they were about to admit me to the hospital. That's when I realized that I had major anxiety issues.
The turning point for me during my low point? When I finally failed the damn course. I realized that my life didn't end, I was still in college, and I didn't lose all of my scholarships. I was okay. After that first failure, I learned a lot. I revamped my schedule and how I did things, so that I wouldn't fail the course again, and you know what? I passed Calculus II the second go round with an "A". After that course, I was dealt many more hurdles, and I definitely failed to jump some of those hurdles. I continued (and still do continue) to battle with anxiety, but I always had that first failure to remind me that life goes on and many times, gets better.
I'm nowhere near my low point. I'm nervous, yes, but not to the point where I need medication or need to see a therapist. I think that my nervousness comes from the fact that it's been a long time since I had a honest fall on my ass. Since the end-of-the-year test scores came out last year, I've been on a string of BIG wins: graduated from graduate school, department chair, a relatively smooth beginning of my school year...and the list goes on with small wins.
Not only do I need to learn how to fall on my ass again, it needs to happen gracefully. In other words, without becoming the nasty, anxious mess. I can see the nasty, anxious mess happening in the face of a failure. I love my job, and I fiercely support my school community. We are a small community, so any bit of leadership is a big deal. My predecessor did an awesome job, and more than anything, I don't want to screw up what she did. I want to become my own person as a grade-level chair, while building upon what she started. More than anything, I want to do right by the students. As the grade-level chair, I set the standards, I execute ideas on what it takes to get our students excited about school and about being in on hall, I facilitate the conversations that need to happen to make things happen. I'm scared to take on this new role, and simultaneously excited and grateful that my administrators thought enough of me to give me the chance to take on this role!
Here's to learning how to fall gracefully on my ass and picking myself up and making myself better!